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Diana Dunn came into our lives in 1984, when she and her infant daughter Myisha moved into our home in Englewood, New Jersey. Her husband Jim Dunn, a co-founder of The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, had been diagnosed with Multiple My

loma, a vicious form of cancer, and was given only 4 months to live. Diana left her son Demian back in Yellow Springs, Ohio, with his father. In our home, she shared space with three other adults and four children. Over the next six months, dozens of friends, organizers, musicians from across the country came to visit, staying sometimes only long enough to leave a tape of the Psalms (Ruby Dee and Ozzie Davis), or sleeping for days on our livingroom floor (Ron Chisom). Diana often looked back on that time as a nightmare, yet she was Jim’s partner, helpmate, and solace. Diana and Jim had a wedding ceremony that spring at the home of John & Sheila Collins in New Rochelle, NY. In July, they moved to New Orleans, “so our daughter can be raised in a black community.” Diana built a home for herself in New Orleans where she has lived off-and-on for over 35 years.

Diana Dunn has probably reached as many white people as any non-published

educator/organizer in the U.S.  She has taught literally thousands and is looked to by them as mentor, friend, and colleague. She and Jim formed H.U.M.A.N (Help Us Make A Nation) in Yellow Springs in the late 1970’s. HUMAN was a community organization dealing with issues such as police violence and criminal justice (sound familiar?). HUMAN sponsored a community festival each year where poets, artisans of every type, and activists would join together for renewal and celebration. You never knew who would show up; over the years such luminaries as Pete Seeger, Holly Near, Mamie Till (mother of Emmitt) and the Rev. Frederick Douglass Kirkpatrick did just that.

But Diana Dunn is more than activist and anracist. She is mother to Demian and Myisha,

mother-in-law to Suzanne, and attentive grandmother and great grandmother. She is caregiver to those struggling with cancer and other life-threatening realities. She cared for Jim in his last years in ways direct and distant— from bed pans to prayer circles She keeps on caring for family and friends in ways only few know about: cooking healthy meals, cleaning cluttered houses and organizing group meditation – as she currently is doing for our friend Meredith McElroy. All the while, she continues with PISAB workshops, follow-ups, and white caucuses.

Let this be an Ode to Diana- HUMAN BEING.

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Christine Schmidt
Christine Schmidt
Mar 02, 2021

What a lovely tribute to Diana Dunn. Her personal warmth and fierce compassion come through your words. You're keeping us connected, David, and that's so important to feel our community when we're physically and geographically so far apart.

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